Each August, almost 50,000 people attend the nation's second largest trucking event: the Great American Trucking Show. Many of the newest products on display are designed to improve maintenance, operations, and safety. Here are a few that I found particularly worthwhile for fleet managers.
Longer-Lasting Muffler Also Saves Fuel
Whenever I find a device that claims to provide significant fuel savings, I ask the manufacturer if the said claims have been verified using Society of Automotive Engineers–Technology and Maintenance Council (SAE-TMC) tests. Usually, that ends the conversation.
Not so with the Liberator Exhaust (www.getliberator.com).
This muffler has an internal flow area of 30 square inches, almost 10 times the typical muffler. Its open structure lowers required boost pressure. The net effect, confirmed by SAE J1321 tests conducted by the Mieden Technical Center in Northville, Mich., demonstrates “an 80% confidence level that the system produces at least a 3.67% decrease in fuel consumption.”
That's the SAE-TMC test procedure I insist on before I acknowledge anyone's claims. The test requires that fuel in a special tank be weighed, not measured by the gallon. That negates any effect of temperature expanding the fuel. (Hot fuel has less energy per gallon than cooler fuel, but pound for pound, there's no difference.) Under certain circumstances, the tests demonstrated more than 7.67% more fuel mass consumed with OEM mufflers than with the Liberator system.
Calibrate Your Tire Gauge
Tire gauges can go out of calibration by as much as 10% to 20% by bouncing around in a toolbox or in a truck. That can mean a potential blowout even if you recently gauged your tires. At best, underinflated tires mean higher fuel consumption and increased wear.
For less than $200, a fleet can own the ValvePal Gauge Testing Station (www.valvepal.com), a bench-mounted device that can quickly, easily, and accurately calibrate any air gauge.
Battery Conquers Idling
The Odyssey Extreme (www.odysseyfactory.com) battery uses absorbent glass mat (AGM) technology to hold ultra-thin, pure lead plates in position. The fiberglass mats hold the acid electrolyte. Vibration resistance is improved.
The pure lead battery allows deep cycle capability (400 cycles at 80% depth of discharge)—at the same time it outperforms other starting-lighting-ignition batteries with 1150 CCA and 1500-amp discharge at 0 degrees for five seconds. Ordinary batteries use a lead-calcium alloy, which adds strength but cuts current flow.
The importance of safety devices and safe practices hit home for me recently when a friend fell off the back of a truck he'd been working on. He hit his head and suffered brain damage. That's why I was impressed with Sturdy Steps (www.sturdysteps.com).
The line of six sturdy auxiliary step designs can bolt or weld virtually anywhere you need an extra step or two. Instead of climbing from the ICC bar into the body, think how much easier and safer it would be with steps above and below the bar. Sturdy Steps can be attached almost anywhere safety would be improved by lessening climbing distance.
Green Grease from Omni Lubricants (www.greengrease.net) is regularly featured on Speed Channel's Two Guys Garage. Available in cartridges, pails, kegs, and drums, it is a waterproof, tenacious synthetic polymer NLGI grade 2 grease. Being synthetic, its drop point is over 500º F. It resists washout, high-impact shock loads, and centrifugal separation, making it ideal for U-joints and heavy-duty chassis applications. Its extreme pressure and tenacious properties make it superior for fifth wheels and heavy-duty suspensions.
PACCAR (www.paccar.com) will soon offer the 12.9-liter PACCAR MX engine in Kenworth and Peterbilt Class 8 trucks. Early engines will be made by PACCAR subsidiary DAF in Europe, but production will shift to PACCAR's new engine factory in Columbus, Miss., when it is completed.
The engine brings both makes into the highly competitive, 13-liter market segment. Testing to U.S. emissions standards is ongoing, so final ratings are not available. In Europe, the MX engine is rated up to 515 hp and 1850 pounds/feet for on-highway use.
By the end of this year, PACCAR will have more than 20 million miles of real-world testing completed in a wide variety of applications. Testing is being done to 2007 EPAemissions standards using cooled exhaust gas recirculation and diesel particulate filters, but without catalytic reduction. Introduction to North America should take place well before 2010 emissions regulations, probably early next year.
Michelin Tire says it's reached a plateau with today's tire technologies, so it developed a new set, called Durable Technologies (www.michelintruck.com). It combines new casing features and tread engineering that increases useful tread life and lets given size tires carry more load or carry the same load at a lower pressure for a better ride.
The XDA5 drive tire uses a regenerative tread design with 3-D matrix siping for added strength when the tread distorts in any direction. When the tire wears to 10/32-inch, an additional rain groove appears. It lasts as part of the tread pattern until 4/32 is reached. Available in low-profile and standard 11-inch height in both 22.5 and 24.5 sizes, the XDA5 carries a 5% to 10% price premium but is expected to yield 30% longer life.
— Paul Abelson is a former director of the Technology and Maintenance Council of the American Trucking Associations, a board member of Truck Writers of North America, and active in the Society of Automotive Engineers.